Microsoft Makes SQL Server 2012 Release Candidate Available

Forgoing a beta version, Microsoft issued the release candidate (RC) of SQL Server 2012, formerly code-named "Denali," on Thursday.

Microsoft calls the RC version of its newest relational database management system "feature complete." It is based on feedback from the community test preview 3 (CTP 3) version, which Microsoft released in July. In its announcement of the RC, Microsoft credited the work of more than 100,000 testers of the CTPs in helping to produce a "production quality" RC.

The new RC, which bears the "0" version number, can be downloaded here.

Software and Hardware Requirements
The RC download image contains both x86 and x64 hardware versions of the database management system. The software can run on 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems, but Microsoft offers a minefield of caveats in its release notes for those installing the RC. Microsoft seems to recommend installing SQL Server 2012 RC on a system running Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 (including the Server Core version). However, the installer doesn't check to determine if those service packs are already installed on the system, so users need to keep that in mind.

It is also possible to install SQL Server 2012 RC on systems running Windows Vista SP2 or Windows Server 2008 SP2, but a .NET Framework update is required first, according to the release notes.

The RC requires that the .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 and .NET Framework 4.0 be installed, along with PowerShell 2.0. The SQL Server 2012 installation process won't automatically install PowerShell for users. An overview of the hardware and software requirements can be found in this Microsoft library article.

New Features
Microsoft described some of the new features in SQL Server 2012 earlier last month at the PASS Summit event in Seattle. Since that time, a few new features were included in the RC. One of the new features is an improved AlwaysOn capability. Microsoft's announcement explains that AlwaysOn now "allows customers to experience multiple, readable secondaries for distributed scale of reporting and backup workloads and support for FileTable and FILESTREAM which brings first-class HA [high availability] to complex data types."

Microsoft MVP Aaron Bertrand has explained that AlwaysOn is just Microsoft's branding for disaster recovery and high-availability features in SQL Server, rather than a new feature. The use of read-only secondaries can help take the load off a primary server by allowing users to run "certain backup operations and all reporting activity against a mirrored copy" of the server, Bertrand stated. He added that an important feature in SQL Server 2012 will be the ability to create "availability groups," which represent a group of databases. Users can set up failovers to move from one availability group to another and this can be done on top of other failover clustering techniques, he explained.

Other new features in SQL Server 2012 include boosted private-cloud multitenancy management capabilities. The database management system now supports 64 resource pools, as well as greater control over CPU use and physical resources.

Power View (formerly known as "Crescent"), which is Microsoft's browser-based business intelligence graphing feature that works with SQL Server 2012, got a few upgraded features, according to Microsoft's announcement. Microsoft also rolled out new "change data capture" support for Oracle in the RC. Microsoft's full list of the new features can be found at this wiki page.

A new version of the free SQL Express solution, called "LocalDB," which is specifically designed for developers, was described back in July. It's available for the CTP3 release of SQL Server 2012, but it's not clear if an RC version is available. Microsoft describes LocalDB as a "lightweight version of Express with all of its programmability features, yet runs in user mode with a fast, zero-configuration installation and short list of pre-requisites."

SQL Server 2012 RC comes with some upgrade and migrations tools. Microsoft explains that users can use the Upgrade Advisor and Distributed Replay tools to test SQL Server-based applications before upgrading to SQL Server 2012. A SQL Server Migration Assistant tool can be used to help move other database solutions over to SQL Server 2012.

Microsoft's SQL Server forum page provides responses to some user questions here. More resources are available at the Microsoft SQL Server community page.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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